Anthony Birchak nearly saw his entire MMA career stall out.

He went a little over a year between fights stretching from October 2013 to December 2014, and when he did come back by making his UFC debut that fight lasted barely over a minute when he was forced to yield to a submission.

Suddenly a blossoming prospect and former MFC champion who had appeared in a 2013 retrospective of Sports Illustrated’s Photos of the Year was down in the dirt. But as quickly as Birchak’s stock diminished it rebounded.

Birchak was rather luckily afforded a second shot in the UFC against the very man he was supposed to make his debut against, Joe Soto. Less than a year earlier Soto was given the ultimate lucky break, stepping up on incredibly short notice to get a crack at newly crowned bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. Birchak vs. Soto was scrapped in the wake of switch.

While Soto was recognized as a seasoned veteran and onetime Tachi Palace belt-holder, few gave him any sort of hope against Dillashaw, and most figured it was a test the new champ would handle with ease. After all, Dillashaw was coming off one of the UFC’s most stunning title changes when he blasted Renan Barao to take the belt from a leader in the pound-for-pound best derby. Yet Soto stood in there, made the champ work for everything, and lasted until halfway through the fifth and final round before being stopped.

So when it came time for Birchak and Soto to finally square-off, it seemed quite logical to go with the feeling that Soto would handily overcome his foe. But Birchak proved all the doubter wrong, whacking Soto with a barrage of punches that produced a knockout only 1:37 into their bout.

Once again, Birchak is the overwhelming underdog this Saturday when he treks to take on undefeated Thomas Almeida, who has vaulted himself to #8 in the UFC’s 135-pound division. Almeida has the decided hometown advantage in the Fight Night 77 matchup as it takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the Chute Boxe representative has registered 18 stoppages in his 19 wins – 15 of which of come fittingly by knockout including two of his three UFC victories. Almeida took out Yves Jabouin in the first round this past April and followed that up only three months later with a tidy second-round knee KO of Brad Pickett.

Despite all of the rightly deserved accolades heaped on Almeida, he’s not getting a pushover in Birchak, who has put a halt to 10 of his 12 victories highlighted by his MFC title win coming by way of second-round submission over Tito Jones.

The Brazilian’s last two wins in the UFC have come against fighters who have primarily been focused on matching strikes with Almeida and aiming for the knockout. Birchak has a decent wrestling acumen and jiu-jitsu talent to potentially give Almeida a rough ride.

If anything, Birchak seems on the verge of another big upset and should be widely considered a terrific underdog/longshot bet against Almeida.

About The Author

Scott Zerr
Staff Writer

Scott joins The MMA Corner having spent the last 14 years in mixed martial arts as Director of Media & Fighter Relations for the Maximum Fighting Championship. He will provide The MMA Corner with insight on breaking news in the sport, plus an insider's perspective on business developments, matchmaking, fighter signings, and much more. In addition to his longtime work in MMA, Scott was a sports reporter before moving into media relations and marketing. After growing up and working in Edmonton, Alberta, Scott has since moved to Bakersfield, California to be with his wife Christina (an avid fight fan, thank goodness) and kids.